Platform shoes are out of fashion these days but Gabonese President Omar Bongo who died last week in Spain from cancer kept them in the glare until his death. On Thursday this week he would be buried.
Some said he gave prominence to the Wild West epitaph; he “died with his boots on.” Even the death of Mr. Bongo was controversial at the end. He died one day before his real death- a symptom that the man himself was of many parts.
Writing about his political achievements can be dicey and a tricky dick situation however. Hot head Gabonese would dismiss Bongo as politicians the same all over. They will promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
Others would take it a little further saying “in Mexico, an air conditioner is called a politician because it makes a lot of noise but doesn’t work very well.”
However, dozens of opposition members who have been in and out of jail like going through a swing door would simply link Mr. Bongo’s years with making poverty – had a multiplying povery on the average Gabonese in a land of potential wealth.
The country’s oil wealth directly benefitted the late man, his sons and daughter, relatives as well as his hirelings in that order. They flew in and out of the Gabonese capital as if they were heading for up country.
Oil money made Bongo to travel with stashes of dollars on overseas trips as if the country’s treasury was a mobile bank. The quest was all in a bid to buy up castles and villas in fashionable resorts in the Spanish coasts and Southern France.
He did it, as summed up by one Gabonese “in the words of the late Singer, Frank Sinatra my way”. In life and in death, one is faced with the question: what legacy has he left behind? For majority of Gabonese, his death has brought more questions than answers.
Firstly, has he left any thing to make their lives better after virtually shepherding him into the Presidency repeatedly in the guise of 99.9 percent winnings in repeated elections? Have the over two dozen Bongo plazas, Bongo boulevards, Bongo Fountai, Bongo Rire been of any significance other than structural monuments?
These are the heat the thermometers would have to read when elections for a new President come around. With Bongo’s death, a lot will be missed no doubt. Principal among them will be the huge rallies with placards praising Bongo for everything under the sky.
The bumpy, waist-shaking Gabonese women in their colorful attire on prime time television singing: Monsieur Bongo, the true leader of the Gabonese people, we believe you, through and through. The drummers beating ferociously, cloaked in beaded sweat as if their day’s meal depended on how harder they beat the drums.
All that glamour has been missed and the praise singers are left with fallen faces. Squeezed by the agony to rehearse new verses to please who would succeed Bongo when election comes around. One thing that would go for Bongo was that he kept the country intact with infrequent alarms of unimagined coups.
He was a lively man, constantly dressed in Pierre Cardin’s suits. And like most African leaders he would cozy up to praise singers. A story is related of the top State House staffer who was queried by Bongo for turning up late.
Replied the man, “traffic was held up by a group of protestors singing –we shall overcome.” Bongo corrected the man saying: “you mean they were singing –we shall overcome” “They sang that also”, replied the staffer.
What loss Gabon has suffered remains to be assessed but it will be only after elections are held would it be known when the country would hold together or be knife-jacked. This will depend on which way the son of Bongo, who is the Defence Minister, decides to go-run for the Presidency in the mistaken notion that it is still Bongo’s vineyard or opt for the change which the opposition is pressing the reset button for.
It stands to reason that all is fair in love and war.
No food no nothing as …